Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Pye Parr - Bato Logo

Pye Parr is probably, inadvertently, the droid who inspired this blog. It is he who has the unenviable task of covering all that glorious artwork with logos, barcodes and other necessary evils! However, the logo and branding, as this article will point out, is an art form in itself. An art form that must be recognisable, functional and adapt to any and every cover image on which it sits, a damn near impossible task!
I asked Pye to give us an insight into his creative process behind the extremely daunting task of changing such a beloved icon and he certainly didn't disappoint! Over to Pye-01 to tell us more. 
"I've been thinking (and worrying) about changing the 2000 AD masthead for quite a while now (I was sick of looking at the old one). A couple of years ago I did some cover type for Prog 2013 which I was kinda pleased with, so I made a vague stab at turning it into a full font, creating a file on my desktop I went back to every so often and tinkered with..."

The logo for the cancelled Prog ZOIB
"That file evolved into a terrifying sprawl of crap, as I dropped the idea of a font and started trying out stuff for the 2000 AD logo. These are the first couple of ideas, in various states of completion. I still quite like the shape of the 2 here..."

A terrifying sprawl of crap.
"Even as I was doing these I knew they weren't going to work. The characters were just too complicated to be useful, but I finished some versions off anyway just for my own satisfaction. I wanted to see if I could ape some of the bends and shadows of the old logos. Not sure it adds anything really. Plus, I wanted to do something new, not hark back to an older version."

The 2000AD Turkish Delight Special
"I started simplifying the letters, tweaking height and weight, and ended up with something I tested on the 2000AD sci-fi special that came out this Summer. I also started thinking about ways to use the 2000 AD badge as a kind of catch-all publishers thing, like marvel or DC use their logos on batman comics as I'd done this on the US-style Dredd and Brass Sun comics and quite liked it."

What's that comic called again?

"After a bit of feedback on the sci-fi special, and some time to stare at it, I went back and changed the characters again. The Sci-Fi Special logo was ok, just not elegant enough somehow, so I went back to it again and changed all sorts of minor details, like the angle/size of the corners and crossbars, and adding serifs on the characters. The first time I felt I was getting somewhere was the bottom version in this pic."

10,000AD, easy!

"First tests on logo placement. I went back over the last 10ish progs and redid the covers exactly as they were but with the latest version of the banner. It doesn't look like much, but slight changes in the boldness or width of the type really affect how much space is left for the 2000AD badge, so I did quite a lot of mucking about here. At this point though I was still quite set on having the badge much smaller and sticking the prog number underneath it, all within a box so you could flick through a pile of issues quickly and find the Prog you want."

The creation of each of those covers is on this blog - just sayin'!
"After a meeting with Matt, Ben and Jason we decided to drop the prog number from the banner. The badge was too small, and no matter how I laid it out it was needlessly fussy. The small type interfered with the overall look of the masthead, plus I couldn't decide what text from the barcode info to split off from the barcode box. Prog number? Date? Price? All of it? Here's some of the options I came up with. The problem with most of these is being sure they'd be legible on some of the more mental pieces of cover art we get. I think its ok to bash/cover the logo about a bit, it can take it, but things like price and issue number you can't."

"I also changed the 'AD' bit on these, as Jason felt the original A looked like an R. At the time I thought that was rubbish, but looking back he was right - as the AD is sideways it needs to be as legible as possible."

Warhol's futuristic phase

"With these things in mind I made some more changes and got the final logo! Having all the silliness bashed off it makes it much stronger. If it was a logo that had to stand alone you could afford to make it more ornate or technical, but the cover art for the Prog does the hard work, so I think the masthead works if it stands out without dominating, or is so stylised it only suits certain pieces of cover art."

Sniff! S'beautiful!

"The new barcode box. This might seem inconsequential, but its probably the thing I'm most proud of - there's just something pleasing about it! Fitting a barcode round the art is one of the most annoying things about cover design. It HAS to be easily visible, but you don't want to give it too much emphasis or it looks fugly on the artwork. This is partly why I wanted to move the date/number/price elsewhere, so I'd be able to cram the barcode off the edge of the page. Really glad I managed to find a way to make it look pretty cool, match the internal design/logo, and stay useful and flexible."
NOTE: For some reason Blogger would not accept the graphic of Pye's barcode, even when I didcked around with it in Photoshop. Drawing that big, ugly black box around the image worked for some reason, so apologies to Pye! - Pete

Very popular with Zebras this one
"Aaaaand the final cover in all it's glory! It helps no end that the first cover with the new logo on it was an absolute stonker. Amazing bit of painting by Greg - so much so that hardly anyone mentioned the new logo on the forums I looked on, as everyone went gaga for the art! I'll take that as a good thing!

Even Dredd wouldn't mess with that logo...

Phew, that was exhausting! But wait! There's more, lots more! Pye also told us about his redesign of the Nerve Centre Page. It is extremely important that he got this right as this is Tharg's page, any error here, no matter how small, would result in a one way trip to see Mek-Quake!
"The New Nerve Centre. I've had an idea in my head for a little while about basing the nerve centre design around Tharg's rosette of Sirius - having Tharg peer out the centre circle, with all these concentric techy looking rings radiating out from him. After making a rosette graphic I liked I started bashing things together in indesign. I tried for a LONG time to get the different page elements in all sorts of layouts, but annoyingly the main problem on each one was the rosette - it just made everything hard to read, so after trying it as a box, a background, squashed in the corner etc. etc. I had to kill the idea. It was driving me nuts and I was rapidly running out of time..."

Warning - If you stare at this image long enough you will get a taste for polystyrene.

"The main rosette graphic. The top ones are colour test that ended up being used as Prog 1900 countdown adverts."

The Nerve Centre, they use everything but the soul.

"The final layout. I used the rosette as a header/footer instead. There's so much info to get on The Nerve Centre it just had to have a plain background. Like with the logo: simpler is stronger."

Oh that Tharg! He's so Betelgeusean when he's mad!
And finally, the good old Credit Chips:
"Again on that theme I redesigned the credit boxes to match the work I'd done so far. Plenty of opportunities to customise these for specific strips too, so I'll be doing that more in future."

We WILL see Pete Wells in one of those credits one day
"So that's one off the bucket list, next up: A new Dredd logo..."
Wow, that's a staggering amount of work with some real thought going into it. Next time you pick up your prog, take a good look at all these extra bits and spare a thought for Pye, unsung hero of the Galaxy's Greatest!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

D'Israeli - D'Sisters of D'Eath!

Fan favourite D'Emon D'raftsman D'Israeli is back with this haunting cover depicting three wicked witches that would gladly see the destruction of our world. Powerful stuff indeed, just in time for Halloween! As ever, Mr D'Israeli has given a gloriously detailed breakdown of his cover process, so as Stickleback himself would say, "Off we trot playmates, arseholes and elbows!"

Matt begins "Tharg’s usual concise brief went as follows, “how about (a cover) for (Stickleback) part 4 with the symbol in the background and in foreground the three sisters looking sinister?”

“The symbol” is a crop-circle-type sigil that’s a major element in the story and appears multiple times in the strip itself. I constructed it in the vector program Adobe Illustrator (which is really good for making geometric designs like this) and exported as a high-resolution bitmap (TIFF) file that could then be imported into Manga Studio."

The schematics for the Nerve Centre Christmas tree...

"I used Manga Studio 5 to generate the three roughs which I submitted to Matt Smith. 01 was the closest to the brief, 02 added past and present versions of Black Bob (as seen in that episode), and 03 was a “wild card” design based on a Gustav Klimt painting. Matt Smith went for 01. In the case of 01 and 02, I imported the symbol into Manga Studio and used the transform setting to distort it into the correct perspective, as that was quicker, easier and more accurate than trying to draw the symbol by hand, even roughly."

"Look out! Falling crop circles!"

Penny Red had spent a long time training her famous synchronised head lice team. 

Bah, I really, really like this one Tharg!

"Next the grey “pencil” drawing over the top of the chosen rough. I still think of them as “pencils” even though I do the whole shebang digitally. As ever, I do the “pencils” on a separate layer so they can be changed without affecting the underlying drawing."

Dreadful Pennies

"Next the blocking. This breaks the drawing up into blocks of colour that I can select later and fill with texture. Since I did the last series of Stickleback, I discovered Manga Studio 5’s incredibly useful “Lasso Fill” tool, which for some silly reason is hidden away in a sub-menu. Lasso Fill allows you to draw a shape freehand, but instead of producing a selection, it automatically fills the just-drawn shape with your chosen colour as soon as you raise the stylus from the tablet (pro tip: Manga Studio lets you select “nothing” as a colour, and if you do that with the Lasso Fill tool it becomes a very quick and accurate eraser for large areas). The Lass Fill tool speeds up the blocking stage immeasurably, and acts in very much the same way as Illustrator’s Pencil tool did, back when I was using that program for drawing."

When spray tan goes wrong...

"Here's how to find the Lasso Tool in Manga Studio 5 (5 or EX5 but not earlier versions); there are a whole nest of sub tools hidden in the tool bar. Depending what sub-tool is selected, the icon will look different (to further complicate things, I’ve rearranged my toolbar, but try just below or above the Type Tool (A) on the toolbar (marked 1 in the illustration). A sub-menu will appear, divided into tabs. Click on the “Direct Draw” section (marked 2 in the illustration) and then on the Lasso Fill button (marked 3 in the illustration)."

Easy as one, two, three...

"My preferred settings for the Lasso Fill tool. If you’re working at resolutions below 400dpi, try playing with the anti-aliasing settings to avoid getting jagged edges."

It's all gobbledegook!

"At this point in the process, I export the cover to Photoshop format and open it in Photoshop (I use Photoshop CC but any version will do.) I add textures to the blocks of colour I’ve made previously (you can see a brilliant video tutorial of that here - Pete) I also put blocks of grey under the textures to make them more coherent and solid."

"Cracking cover Gromet!"

"I then select all the textures (Select: Load Selection: pick “(name of layer) transparency” from the drop-down list and click OK) and, on a new layer, paint in blacks over the textures to deepen some of them further." You can see D'Israeli's incredibly useful video on this part of the process here."

"I then close the file and re-open it in Manga Studio 5."

This years' trick or treaters were scarier than last years'!

"Finally, painting; I used to use Corel Painter for this stage of the process, but Manga Studio 5’s Watercolour Brushes are 90% as good as Painter’s, and Manga Studio is so much faster and more stable (in fact, Manga Studio runs faster with five pages open than Corel Painter can with one.) The upshot of this is that, after three upgrades which have actually brought declines in performance, I have with great relief been able to drop Corel Painter as a working tool." 

"That bit of relationship-breakup schadenfreude over with, back to business*; I use the Transparent Watercolour brush in Manga Studio 5 to add bits of shading and modelling to the faces, I also  paint in dark areas on Penny Red’s long hair (left) and then scribble over them with a Pen Tool loaded with white to create hair strands."

Photo found on Wayne Rooney's phone... 

"Once this stage is complete, I close the file and re-open it in Photoshop and make a copy as a flat TIFF file for upload to the 2000AD FTP server. And that’s that!"

"* Yes, I’m over you, Corel Painter, over you, do you hear? I never think of you any more!" Yeah, you keep telling yourself that Matt, we all know you're pining for just one last Coral Painting session...

And here's how those harpies look on your newsstand, yikes! 

 The latest line up of the Sugababes

Great galloping thanks to Mr Brooker for another amazing cover breakdown, check out his stunning blog right here!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Richard Elson - Dirty Dog!

With the comic world still reeling and receiving collective therapy over Milo Manara's gratuitous Spider-Girl's arsehole cover, Richard Elson has decided to blacken the good name of our beloved 2000AD by cheese-caking none other than Gene the Hackman! His brain is full of wrong!

I'm sure you'll join me in moral outrage and righteous indignation at the cover which features Gene gyrating his beautifully pert buttocks at the reader. Let us fill social media with post after post showing how upset we are at his tasteless, yet beautifully perky sideboob. Hybrid human/canines DO NOT fight in that pose and I for one am sick of them being depicted in such a way in comics. Will nobody think of the puppies!?! (By puppies, I mean youngsters, and not Gene's heaving, bouncing chest.)

For the good of society, I confronted Mr Elson and asked him to jolly well explain himself. He said "Tharg asked for a 'Gene piling into Them' cover image for the third part of the latest Kingdom outing. I provided four initial sketches, none of which were exactly what Tharg was looking for..." Oh yeah, blame the Mighty One...

Boobs, crotch, splooge and gape - when will this madness end?

"I was asked to do something close to the feel of sketch one but with Gene facing toward the viewer, rather than sideways. I submitted a revised sketch, which was approved."

Like a beautiful, succulent, juicy peach - disgusting!

"I enlarge my roughs and ink straight over them. I try to avoid a detailed, intermediate pencil stage as, although it is an opportunity to refine the drawing/anatomy, it also tends to remove the kinetic quality of the figures and that’s what I’m primarily interested in. When I came to ink up this sketch something felt wrong. I realised that I had inadvertently drawn a Gene the Hackman ass shot. Probably a bit too balletic for Gene; raw, devastating power is the quality I’m looking for. The guy is a human/bullmastiff genetic hybrid that weighs as much as a 4x4 and is the size of a fuckin’ polar bear; there’s very little room for grace in his fighting technique. I redrew the lower half of Gene’s body, reversing the tilt of his hips, to try and better convey the brutality of his blows.

Ah yes, the old I didn't realise until it was too late excuse...

Oh the humanity/canineity!

Richard was lucky enough... I mean, had the downright audacity to colour Gene's muscular glutes himself... "For the colour stage I used a bit of a hybrid technique. I usually have two distinct methods of colouring: one involves a lot of layers, the other involves very few layers but a lot of channels. With both of these methods I put the colour layers below the inks layer, with most of the colour layers set to ‘normal.' I decided to try a combination of the two on this job and also colour above the inks layer with most of the colour layers set to ‘multiply’. I ended up with an overly complex mess on both palettes (I’ve enclosed a screenshot) and managed to slightly confuse myself in the process! I don’t suppose any of this will make sense to anybody who doesn’t colour in Photoshop, but I can’t be bothered to explain it in any more detail. :)"

Twenty three layers would be enough to 'slightly confuse' anyone!

Below is the glorious finished image, Gene asserting himself from top to bottom with his fierce arsenal. Certainly not a bum note to be seen in this tush, I mean, lush cover...

"Slicey, Slicey Oncey Twicey!"

Like a modern day Roger Cook, I confronted Mr Elson on his exploitation of poor Gene, he said "When I looked at the revised sketch again yesterday I realised that it is that classic 90’s comics T&A shot - as seen in a thousand drawings of female X-Men. Given some of the weird requests for sketches that I’ve received over the years, I’m sure that there is a market for Gene cheesecake out there somewhere; hopefully Dan and I won’t have to exploit that for a few years yet, but, now that you mention the Manara controversy, I am slightly concerned - those animal rights activists are nutters!"

Quite. Below is how the cover shamelessly looks in your local newsagent. I recommend you slip it into a copy of the Daily Mail before paying for it...

Thank you so much to Richard for sending the files which I have passed on to the police.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Nick Percival - Styx and Bones!

Prog 1901 sees the welcome return of (deep breath) The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead left in his Wake.) Having discovered that the one good thing in his murderous life was a lie, the undead gunslinger has sworn bloody vengeance on, well, pretty much everyone!

One Last Bullet, the third and final book of the series, sees Azrael cross Purgatory and the River Styx itself, on one last mission, a mission to kill God. Let's hope he gives him one from me for ever allowing Kerry Katona to live.

The brilliant, brilliant Nick Percival has provided the first glorious cover for the book. Over to Nick to tell us more "I have to give Tharg full credit for the design on this one. His description:  “I was thinking of a movie poster style shot of him standing on the shoreline of the river Styx, his back to us, guns out, mist swirling around him, perhaps forming a vague skull shape.” is pretty much what the final piece ended up being."

Modest as ever! The mood, tone and, no pun intended, execution of the piece is just perfect. 2014 has been a fantastic year for Nick Percival covers. 

Nick continues, "I actually painted this half traditionally with acrylics and finished it off digitally, so it’s a bit of a mash up as far as art techniques go. The aim was also to give it a bit of an ’old school’ type feel in terms of colours, tone and style."

"Reap the whirlwind Azrael! Reap it!"

And here's how the cover looks on the Thrill Merchant's shelf...

Trigger warning: "Alright Dave? Watch out for that cowboy."

The series has had some beautifully designed covers during it's run, the first being this cracker by Ben Willsher...

Ben Willsher, he's quick on the draw 

Followed by this cover of biblical proportions by Siku...

"Fire! No! Wait! I meant behind y-"  

A typically creepy cover from Mr Simon Davis...

 Stiff and Stetson 

And an all action, digital masterpiece from from Clint Langley.

That's plane crazy!

A huge passel o thanks to Nick for sending the image and inside info, we owe him a shot of Redeye at the next con!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Greg Staples - Greghead!

Wow... just wow! I think the cover of jump on Prog 1900 might just be my new favourite Dredd image. This is simply amazing, I think I've shown it to just about everyone I know! I fell in love with this cover as soon as I saw it and couldn't WAIT for master painter Greg Staples to send the files.

However, I knew that this was a fully painted piece and worried that there might not much in the way of sketches or WIP images left to show, thankfully Greg didn't let us down!

Over to the man himself to tell us more...

"You’re right, I didn’t really have any sketches for this piece but there is an interesting story about it! It started as a proposed print idea for 2000AD that never came off. I did the grey piece as an idea for signed limited edition prints that 2000AD could release through the store, they liked the idea but it just never seemed to happen..."

Here's that grey piece, heck I woulda bought it!

A grey day for Old Stony Face...

Greg continues "I always liked the composition but felt the drawing could be improved and put to better use so I did the rain composition and felt it had found its place, painted it as a detailed grey painting then rendered it with the colours."

"Drokkin' Weather Control is busted again..."

"This wasn’t a digital painting, it was painted entirely on art board by hand, digital would have been a lot easier but I felt it needed the edgy human touch. It was quite a complex piece to paint by hand, and one I wouldn’t have been able to do a few years ago, but I think Dark Justice has let me hone my skills. Getting the rain just right was tricky but it was one of those pieces that came together easy because of the planning. Only took two years since inception!"

Two years damn well spent in my opinion! It's stunning! The skin tones, the stubble, the lighting effects and the rain look real. It's glorious!

Dredd even showers with the helmet on...
Thankfully Tharg has released some limited prints (subscribers only I'm afraid) and though they don't include the cover of Prog 1900, they do have this beauty below which is similarly gorgeous! Find out more here.

You'll be blown away by this print - ha!

Here's how the cover looks on your Thrillshelf, complete with new logo! Hmmm, I feel an email to Pye coming on...

Despite the pissing rain, Dredd managed to balance the new logo on his bonce...

Huge thanks to Greg for being a gentleman as always and sending those amazing images and fascinating insight. Here's looking forward to his work on Dark Justice, I've heard it's absolutely incredible!

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Paul Marshall - Heads, you lose!


Joe Dredd against an entire ship full of heavily armed, psychotic, genetically enhanced hard cases... They don't stand a chance!

Cascade, by the brilliant team of Paul Marshall and Mike Carroll comes to its clever conclusion in Prog 1899 as Dredd battles to singlehandedly save his city from the fearsome Lawlords (which, I've LITERALLY just clicked is a play on 'Warlords' - maaaan, I'm stupid.)

Below we see Paul's design ideas and I gotta tell you, I'd have been happy with any of those!

The Lawlords were always photobombing Dredd's snaps

Next the pencils, just check out the dazzling craftsmanship! There's a LOT of work gone into those...

"No, honestly, this gun's really loud, listen!"

And finally Paul's trademark razor-sharp inks, absolutely lovely!

Luckily, the Lawlords went to the Stormtrooper School of Target Practice

With the inks done, it was off to colour whizz Chris Blythe to add his magic - Hopefully I'll show you that soon...

HUUUUGE thanks to Paul for sending the images, I really do hope we see him back on Dredd soon, he truly is one of the best...

UPDATE: Now with added Chris Blythe colours - Zarjaz!